Asking yourself should I take the SAT? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no, but chances are you will be required to take the SAT, as even some of the easiest colleges to get into require test scores. You should strongly consider taking the SAT anyways, even if it’s not a prerequisite for admission to the college or program of your dreams. At the end of the day, taking the SAT can give you significant advantages when applying to college and provide you some secondary benefits, too. In this blog, we’ll look at why you should take the SAT, when you don’t need to take SAT, and how to decide for yourself if you should take the SAT or not.
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Should I Take the SAT?
Should I take the SAT? has become a common question for high school students in the US, especially with the increasing competitiveness of college acceptance rates and many school implementing test-optional admissions policies. The short answer to whether you should take the SAT (or the ACT), is that it largely depends on where you are applying, where you’re located and your own personal preference.
There are a few factors to take into account when deciding not only whether you should take the SAT, but whether or not it’s a definite requirement. We’ll look a bit closer at when you will need to take the SAT, and when it may be optional for you.
When You Should Take the SAT
1. You’re applying to colleges that require SAT scores or competitive schools
Unless you’re applying exclusively to colleges that do not require the SAT or ACT, you may need to submit SAT scores as part of college admissions requirements. There are still plenty of schools that have a hard requirement for SAT or ACT scores.
Even if a college doesn’t have a strict requirement, the admissions committee might consider SAT scores an asset on your application. Many top colleges have test-optional policies, meaning your SAT scores are not required for admission, but they do still consider standardized test scores. For example, if you’re wondering how to get into Ivy League colleges, these colleges are test-optional, but will still consider good SAT scores as a sign of a strong applicant. Ivy League schools often have minimum score requirements, too, even the easiest Ivy League schools to get into!
2. You live in a state that requires the SAT for high school graduation
The first factor to consider is which state you live in. Some states actually require high school students to take the SAT in order to graduate from high school. Even if you’re not located in one of these states, you might still need to take the SAT to be admitted to college.
3. You’re applying to universities in Canada
Another consideration when deciding whether to take the SAT is if you’re a US student wanting to know how to get accepted to Canadian universities. Canada doesn’t have an SAT equivalent and most Canadian universities don’t require standardized tests for admission. However, some top Canadian universities, like the University of Toronto, do ask US applicants to submit SAT scores. Since the US high school curriculum is different from the Canadian one, universities in Canada need a way to standardize admissions practices using SAT scores.
4. Your chosen major or program requires SAT scores
There are some majors or degree programs that require SAT scores for admissions, even if the college has a test-optional policy. For instance, some of the best undergrad business schools might require SAT scores for applicants to a competitive business degree program, while the same school won’t require SAT scores for applicants wanting to major in the sciences.
There are even some summer programs for high school students, offered through prestigious colleges, that require SAT scores when you apply to them. These programs might use your SAT scores as a way to determine whether you’re an ideal applicant and are suitably prepared for the course.
So, even if you’re banking on test-optional policies to skip the SAT, it’s important to check the specific requirements not only for the colleges you’re applying to but the department admission requirements. Always ask about SAT requirements for any programs you apply to, just in case!
5. You’re applying for scholarships that require SAT scores
Believe it or not, there are scholarships that ask for your SAT scores and use your standardized test scores in evaluating you. Not taking the SAT can limit the number of scholarships you are eligible for, so it’s worth looking into which scholarships require the SAT you might otherwise be interested in or qualify for, before you decide to skip taking the test.
When You’re NOT Required to Take the SAT
1. If you’re applying ONLY to test-optional or test-blind colleges
If you’re applying exclusively to test-optional or test-blind colleges, you may not need to take the SAT or any other standardized test at all. Many colleges in the US have adopted a test-optional policy for admissions, meaning they will consider your SAT scores if you submit them, but they are not a hard requirement. Test-blind colleges are institutions that do NOT consider standardized test scores of any kind, even if you submit them.
This is ideal for students who may not be great test-takers but remember that the remaining application components, like your college essays, extracurriculars for college and college recommendation letters, will need to be stellar so you are still a competitive candidate.
2. You’re applying to community college, trade schools, or international universities
The only other time you likely won’t need to take the SAT is if you’re applying to one of these three options:
- Community colleges
- Trade schools
- International universities
Community colleges and trade schools typically don’t require any standardized test scores for admission, since they often have open enrollment policies. Keep in mind that you may need to take SAT if you plan to transfer from a community college to a four-year program that DOES require the SAT, though.
If your goal is to study abroad and apply to a university outside the United States, you won’t need to take the SAT. However, you will most likely be required to take a language proficiency test for the country you want to study in, and you’ll still need to complete any required standardized tests in that country. In short, applying to international schools doesn’t mean you can avoid taking any tests.
Want to know how to get into college with a low GPA? Here are our tips:
While skipping the SAT can be a load off your mind when applying to colleges, there are some drawbacks and missed opportunities to doing so. Taking the SAT can in fact open some doors for you and give you significant advantages when applying to colleges.
Even if you’re not a confident test-taker, there are ways to mitigate this and better prepare for the test. Even if you take the SAT and don’t earn as high a score as you wanted to, your options still automatically become greater than if you had skipped taking the SAT altogether. Next, we’ll look at why you should take the SAT anyways.
Why You Should Take the SAT Anyways
Most of the time, high school students asking “should I take the SAT?” and hoping to avoid it are not good test-takers or are nervous about taking the test. However, there are some distinct advantages to writing the SAT anyways. Even if you don’t earn a highly competitive score, just writing the test and completing this requirement can bring you some great advantages when applying to college and other academic programs, applying for scholarships and even when applying to graduate school.
Here are a few areas where taking the SAT can be an advantage:
Working on your college essays? Here are some stellar examples:
Should You Take the SAT, the ACT, or Both?
Plenty of high school students ask whether it’s better to take the ACT over the SAT and vice versa. Or they wonder if they should take both tests. The truth is, colleges don’t usually have a preference for one test or the other, and will accept scores from either test for admissions.
Furthermore, taking one test over the other doesn’t significantly impact your chances of admissions. Once again, which test you take depends on your personal preferences and your individual strengths. Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between the two tests:
Since there is only a negligible difficulty level difference between the two tests and they are both somewhat similar, the decision on which test to take comes down to preference. For example, a student who is stronger in mathematics might want to take the SAT, whereas a student with a strong science background or who enjoys writing might look favorably on the ACT. The timing and number of questions might also be a factor for you. If you want more time to answer questions, the SAT has fewer questions and a greater amount of time to answer them.
At the end of the day, it’s best to choose the test you think you can achieve a better score on. This way, you’ll make yourself a more competitive applicant and satisfy the test requirements. If you do choose to take both, keep in mind that you’ll likely be studying for two exams at the same time, and they will both require different studying approaches.
If you end up retaking either test, you should also factor in the cost in both time and money of retaking just one test or both tests.
Should you take the SAT? We strongly recommend that you do. Not only are there definite pros to taking the SAT, it is designed to assess your readiness for college courses, so it can be a great way to prepare for the academic rigors of college.
If you’re still unsure about taking the SAT or you want extra help preparing for this step, there are plenty of college application help services, including college admissions consulting and SAT tutoring. There are also free SAT practice exams you can take through College Board!
1. Should I take the SAT?
The short answer is yes, you should take the SAT. Even if you’re applying to colleges that don’t require standardized test scores, taking the SAT can give you some great benefits when applying to college, applying for scholarships and more.
2. Should I take the SAT or ACT? Or both?
Which test you take depends entirely on your preferences, since colleges do not have a strong preference for either test. They are both quite similar, but have some differences in content and timing. If you choose to take both, keep in mind that you’ll need to dedicate more time to studying and will need to use a different study approach for each exam. There is no significant advantage to taking both tests.
3. Do I need to take the SAT?
You will only need to take the SAT if you’re applying to colleges that require it as part of the admissions process. Some summer programs for high school students and scholarships also require you to submit SAT scores.
4. How hard is the SAT?
The SAT evaluates the skills and learning you’ve had in your high school years. It can be a challenging exam since it tests students on advanced mathematics and complex reading passages. There is also the time pressure of the exam which can be stressful for some test-takers. However, with proper preparation and understanding of the test, students can ace the exam without much difficulty.
5. What are test-optional and test-blind colleges?
Test-optional colleges give applicants the choice to submit SAT and ACT scores or not. If you choose to submit your scores, they will be considered as part of your application. Test-blind colleges, like many schools in the UC rankings, do not consider standardized test scores at all, even if you submit them.
6. Should I still take the SAT if it’s not required?
Even if you’re planning to apply only to colleges that don’t require the SAT, you should still consider writing the test. Writing the SAT can make you eligible for merit scholarships, financial aid, or even increase your chances of admission if you have a low GPA.
7. Do I need to take the SAT for university in Canada?
Canada does not have an SAT equivalent and Canadian universities do not typically require standardized test scores for admission. However, some universities may ask US applicants to submit SAT scores to apply.
8. Can I submit other test scores for college?
Some colleges will accept IB or AP exam scores in place of SAT and ACT scores to satisfy standardized test requirements. Check with the school’s admissions office to be sure you meet the requirements and have sufficiently impressive exam scores!
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